ALFRED — The man is 35 years old. He said he started using heroin again after losing his MaineCare benefit. He had been on suboxone and had been doing well.

But the man, who declined to give his name, isn’t doing so well now. He as an inmate at York County Jail ”“ back in on a bail violation, and when he spoke to a reporter, he said he was detoxing from heroin.

“I was good for four years,” the man said. “But my suboxone got cut off and I relapsed.”

Not every addict who loses their health insurance ”“ whether it be MaineCare or private insurance ”“ lapses back into using again, and not everyone who does so ends up in jail. But without health insurance and the ability to afford medications than can help ease the craving for heroin and other opiates, falling back into the abyss of addiction can happen.

“There are programs available, but without health insurance, there is a real difficulty for access to them,” said Liza Little, senior director of behavioral health at Southern Maine Health Care. “There’s been such large cuts from MaineCare over the past three years.”

At the Milestone Foundation, which operates programs in Portland and Old Orchard Beach, Director Bob Fowler said a spike in demand for detox beds has the agency thinking of expanding its 16-bed inpatient detox program, but the challenge, he said, is making it financially supportable.

David Sorensen, spokesman for the Maine Department of Health and Human Services, said a 24-month limit on MaineCare-funded methadone and suboxone is in effect. As well, about 70,000 non-disabled adults have been removed from MaineCare rolls, in an effort to bring MaineCare costs under control and redirect resources for the elderly and disabled. He pointed to an increase in Medicaid reimbursements to nursing homes and to services for severely disabled adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

LePage, in a radio address earlier this week, said DHHS has money for drug treatment, even for those who don’t have MaineCare or private insurance,

“In fact, we have hundreds of thousands of dollars left over every year in this program,” LePage said. “We have the resources to help those who need it.”

LePage said the state has increased funding for addiction treatment from $7 million to $17 million since he has been governor.

Sorensen said LePage is referencing grants available to the Office of Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services that pay for addiction treatment for those without insurance, like an $800,000 grant announced Wednesday by U.S. senators Susan Collins and Angus King. The money is designed to pay for treatment for 12-24 year olds. As well, Sorensen said there is money from the general fund going toward treatment.

There are also some agencies seek funding from the community to help those without insurance. Crossroads, which operates programs for woman in Kennebunk and Cumberland County, is among them. Director of Development and Communications Lesley Rawlings said the agency hosts fundraisers to finance scholarship beds and was able to offer services to 22 addicted woman through scholarships last year. And while the agency was happy be able to provide services for the 22, she pointed out there were 75 applicants for the slots.

For those who have managed to complete recovery programs, Fowler, at Milestone, said resources for aftercare programs for those without insurance are limited.

“The likelihood of maintaining sobriety is not as optimistic as we’d like it to be,” he sad. “And more and more, that is the case. It’s a really sad situation; the available resources seem more limited than ever.”

— Senior Staff Writer Tammy Wells can be contacted at 324-4444 (local call in Sanford) or 282-1535, ext. 327 or [email protected]

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